By Sne Masuku for IOL
Black publishers and stationery service providers in KwaZulu-Natal have criticised the provincial Department of Education for awarding its R263-million stationery/textbook contract to one company to distribute these items to all public schools in the province. They claimed they were being put out of business.
The publishers and service providers, who own medium and small businesses, had previously serviced Section 21 schools. They alleged the new central procurement system tender awarded to one company in 2014 had expired in 2016, but the contract had been renewed for the past two years “illegally and uncompetitively”.
Complaints by the Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) Forum, comprised of representatives of the affected businesses, threatened legal action against the central procurement system and planned to challenge the legality of the tender. Should this matter end up in court, it would be the fourth procurement tender of the provincial department taken to court.
The department’s Nutrition Programme, the Scholar Transport Programme and the sanitary pads tender, worth millions, were some of the tenders suspected of irregularities, with some going to court.
Last week, the forum lodged a complaint with the provincial portfolio committee on education. The service providers asked the committee to escalate their matter to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga after their requests for a meeting with department officials were allegedly ignored.
Most schools had waited nearly a year for the department to give them funds for books and stationery.
Later in the year, the department, through a circular, advised schools that quotes which had exceeded 20% of the catalogue price including VAT, transport costs and other costs, would be migrated to the central procurement system using the service provider appointed by the department.
Service providers which supplied Section 21 schools with their stationery lost business when the department migrated their orders with private service providers to a company it had appointed.
“We are questioning why the department was so eager in doing business with a company that does not have a valid contract.
“The department is deliberately delaying payment of Section 21 school funds to take away business from us. The intention is to create a new monopoly in the Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) business,” said Mandla Shangase, the interim LTSM Forum chairperson.
According to the South African Schools Act, Section 21 schools which chose to order through private service providers had a right to do so.
This time, schools were told not to confirm their orders before they received a written confirmation from the department that the funds had been transferred.
A multidisciplinary task team appointed by Motshekga is currently investigating allegations of misappropriation of funds levelled by the National Teachers’ Union against the provincial department.
Department spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said any contractual obligations that the department may have with service providers remained confidential.
He said the department would never be involved in unlawful activities because they believed in good governance and transparency.
Professional organiser Harmony Seiter has provided a step-by-step guide to creating an at-home homework station.
A homework caddy is great for small spaces, multi-purpose spaces, and for kids who love to do their homework on the floor or away from a desk or table.
• Find a caddy or a tray you like.
o You can find caddies of all shapes and sizes in many sections of a retailer (such as baby, bathroom, kitchen)
o You may need to add other containers to separate supplies
Watch the video here.
• Your needs will vary depending on the age of your kids.
o Primary grades may need crayons, scissors, glue sticks, pencils, pencil sharpener, erasers, colored pencils, a ruler, tape, paper, and possibly subject folders.
o Middle schoolers and high schoolers may need a calculator, pens, pencils, highlighters, pencil sharpener, erasers, stapler or paper clips, paper, glue sticks, loose leaf paper, sticky notes, tape, and subject folders.
• Place your homework caddy in an easy to reach spot for your student. It’s easily mobile, but make sure it`s brought to the same spot at the end of the day so homework time is always easy to manage.
Whether you keep it in your dedicated office or your kitchen pantry, a homework station will give your student all the tools she needs to successfully finish the day’s assignments.
South Africa faces a particularly challenging teaching environment with often overcrowded classrooms, distracted learners and hard working but sometimes under-qualified teachers.
And another, more subtle challenge is that traditional teaching classroom experiences are often not aligned with how the brain works, particularly as it relates to attention.
Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that learning institutions in South Africa can achieve far better results by better understanding how learning works.
“There are so many things vying for student attention today it makes it harder to get attention and therefore engagement but there are five things that can be done to dramatically improve results:
Seat location impacts attention
A study by Kennesaw State University revealed that where students sit in the classroom impacts focus. Says Andrews: “Students in the front and middle of the classroom stayed on task, while those in the back were more distracted. An active learning classroom where students easily moved and rearrange their seating enables them to stay attentive.”
Classrooms configured with no fixed position where the instructor must stand and mobile seating create better results. Here an teacher or student can address the class, lead a discussion and share content from anywhere in the classroom. There’s no front or back of the classroom, and since the seating allows students to change posture and position easily, every seat is the best seat in the room.
Research by Diane M. Bunce, et. al. on “How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class?”, compared a passive lecture approach and active learning methods. Researchers noted fewer attention lapses during times of active learning. They also found fewer lapses in attention during a lecture that immediately followed a demonstration or after a question was asked, compared to lectures that preceded active learning methods. This suggests active learning may have dual benefits: engaging student attention and refreshing attention immediately afterward.
Physical movement fuels the brain
Schools are starting to incorporate more physical activity in the classroom, such as Delaney Connective, a high school in Sydney, Australia, where students do “brain pushups” each morning: five-minute, Tai Chi-like exercises that get the blood flowing and help students focus.
“Physical movement increases alertness and helps encode and trigger memory. Yet schools and teachers traditionally train students to be sedentary, and equate sitting still with greater attention and focus,” noted Andrews.
Simply allowing students to get out of their seats to move while learning provides the brain with much-needed novelty and change.
Novelty and change get attention
Our brains naturally seek out what’s new and different. Therefore varying materials and breaks facilitate attention. A study by Kennesaw State University found that students paid more attention when the professor reviewed quiz answers, presented new information or shared videos, essentially by changing things up.
Novelty and change facilitate learning in another way too. Repeating important points by engaging multiple senses helps to reinforce learning. There is a greater likelihood that learning will generalise outside the classroom if it is organised across sensory, physical, emotional and cognitive networks.
Learning has a natural rhythm
The need for periods of both quiet focus and healthy distraction finds its parallel in learning.
Our brain can focus on a task for only so long, after which it needs a break for renewal to achieve high performance on the next task. Ignore this rhythm and we tend to lose focus.
“Researchers have found that people who respect this natural rhythm are more productive,” says Andrews. Breaks for rest and renewal are critical to the body and brain, as well as to attention span. The work of education is similarly organic, changing at different times of the term, week, even during a single class period.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) in Limpopo says delays with the delivery of stationery have improved but the Sekhukhune district still remains a concern.
Sadtu members from various regions reported on the progress of stationery delivery in the province.
While deliveries had been made to most schools, Sadtu claims that some schools in Vhembe and Mopani are yet to receive stationery.
But the union has added that the situation is no longer a crisis there.
Sekhukhune, however, remained a worry.
“Vhembe and Mopani have picked up in terms of stationery delivery, there is no crisis now. The crisis remains at Sekhukhune,” Sadtu provincial secretary Matome Raphasha told News24 on Thursday.
The union hoped that the education department would move swiftly to address the problem as it argued that the lack of these materials at schools could have a ripple effect and affect final exams.
“It is possible that there could be omissions and shortfalls,” said Limpopo education department spokesperson Naledzani Rasila.
Rasila advised affected schools to contact their circuit offices.
Earlier this year a legal challenge was launched over the tender to deliver stationery in the province.
On Tuesday the education department was successful in a case involving two service providers who claimed that those awarded the stationery delivery tenders were irregularly appointed.
The two losing bidders took the department to court to try and get an interdict and to overturn its tender decision, and therefore halt delivery of stationery in the province.
The companies, Afropulse and Freedom Stationery, sought to overturn the awarding of the tender to African Paper Products and instead have it awarded to the two companies.
But the department had argued that it had almost completed the delivery of stationery to the 4 000 schools in the province.
By Chester Makana for News24
BTS shopping will soon be in full swing, and parents are undoubtedly looking for ways to save money on school supplies.
According to a recent study from Ebates released by Consolidated Credit, 34% of Canadian parents surveyed will spend less than $100, and 22% plan to spend more than $200 per child.
Of the parents in British Columbia who were surveyed, 20% say they plan to spend more than $200 per child and 41% said they plan to spend less than $100 per child.
Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit, says that back to school season is one of the busiest shopping times of the year behind the winter holidays.
Parents with kids heading back to school this fall should make sure they take stock of what supplies they already have at home before going shopping.
“If you’ve got more than one child, that can get pretty expensive and take a bite out of your budget around this time of the year,” he says.
Schwartz suggests families go into stores with a plan and stick to it in order to keep costs down.
“Don’t go overboard. A lot of schools will provide lists that you need and sometimes those lists don’t come out until after school started,” he says.
Families should also go through their homes to take stock of what they already have and items they can potentially reuse.
“Recycle, reuse and rummage,” says Schwartz. “That means going through everybody’s backpacks from last year. Maybe you’ve got a drawer that you have in the house that’s full of pencils and pens and some of the staples that you might need and see what you can reuse there so you can avoid buying it altogether.”
Schwartz also suggests involving kids in the decision making process.
“Give them a budget. Give them a list. And perhaps even split some of the savings if they come in under budget,” he said. “It’s a fantastic learning tool for the kids around this time of year.”
Families should also keep an eye on any drops in price on items they’ve already purchased. Many stores will give shoppers back the difference.
According to research from MarketWatch, parents also make the mistake of shopping at dollar stores assuming they will have the lowest prices on everything, which isn’t always the case.
Big box stores can offer good deals on items by offering them as “loss leaders” for incredibly low prices. Their research also found that Amazon can also offer good deals if you buy in bulk but not necessarily on individual items and that a majority of consumers plan to shop both online and in-store.
By Ross McLaughlin & Carly Yoshida for www.bc.ctvnews.ca
Former pupils of a long-closed school shared their memories when they were invited back to the building.
The former Anthill Common Board School, which later became Denmead School, closed in 1972 and was taken over by Denmead Community Association.
Recently the main hall had a major refurbishment and a number of items from the school were discovered under the floorboards.
Former pupils were invited back to have a look at them and the work that has been done on the hall.
Penny Lehmann, 69, remembers her time at the school fondly.
Among the relics discovered when the floor was dug up to treat subsidence, in the School Lane building, were hundreds of old wooden rulers.
Penny, of Yew Tree Gardens, came up with the idea of making a collage with them.
She says: “I went here when it was Denmead School. I remember walking from the village green and stopping in the village shop along the way to buy sherbert lollies. In the summer we’d sit under the apple trees.
“It was a surprise to find the rulers – there were so many of them. I cleaned them all up and thought they would look good in the shape of the building but it didn’t work. I think the school name is very effective.”
One of Penny’s classmates was Dave Cox, who went on to become the village blacksmith.
The 69-year-old, of Anmore Road, has strong memories of the teachers and having to use the cold, basic outside toilets.
Maurice Hibberd, 94, was the oldest former pupil at yesterday’s event. He said: ‘I remember being asked to do the headmaster’s garden.
‘This place has changed an awful lot since then.’
Manager Bob Bainbridge MBE invited the community in to find out about groups who use the centre.
“I found pyramids of rulers – it was probably a game to drop them between the cracks in the floorboards. There were thimbles, a horse’s tooth and a little horseshoe too,” he says.
The credibility of school examinations currently under way in Limpopo has suffered a serious blow because of a series of bungles by the provincial education department.
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